The term "Shaivite" is often overused nowadays. For instance, Iyer Brahmins are often called Shaivites, but they are actually followers of Adi Shankaracharya's Smartha sect (which I discuss here and here), and simply adopt Shiva as their Ishta Devata. True philosophical Shaivism is relatively rare nowadays (in contrast to Vaishnavism which is pretty common). This article lists various genuine sects of Shaivism:

The schools of Saivism can be broadly classified as the Raudra and Saumya schools.

The Raudra schools of Saivism are:

  1. Bhairava - They believe in the supremacy of Bhairava and their sacred text is Svacchanda Bhairava Tantra.
  2. Kaalaamukha - They believe in the supremacy of Rudra. Inorder to cut the pasabandha, Shiva is worshipped on various holy days. By shaktinipaata the soul becomes free. The soul shines like a star while Shiva shines like the sun. The union of the Shiva and the soul is called paramoksha.
  3. Kaapaalika - They accept some of the doctrines of the Kaalaamukha sect. According to them the dancing Shiva is the supreme SadaaShiva. Souls which are but pure consciousness are many. They become initiates, take severe vows, beg and rise equal to Shiva.
  4. Paashupata - These have two subdivisions - vaidika and avaidika. The avaidika Paashupatas had a number of Agamas like prajapatya padma samhita etc. The vaidika school is said to have been taught be Shrikantha. Four disciples are Ruru, Dhadhici, Agastya and Upamanya. Three principles accepted in this school are Kshara, akshara and ksharakshara. Kshara is praakriti, akshara is purusha and ksharakshara is Ishwara. Maya is considered as praakriti.

The Saumya schools of shuddha shaivas include those who believe in various doctrines like the Aikyavada, pashana, bheda, sama, sankraanti, avikara, parinaama and siddhaanta.

The major schools are the

  1. The Saiva Siddhaanta of the Tamil region,
  2. the Pratibhijnaa system which is popularly known as Kashmir Saivism and
  3. Veerashaivism or Lingaayata

My question is, what is the difference between the Raudra sects of Shaivism and the Saumya sects?

The only context I know the terms Raudra and Saumya in is the names of Shiva's forms. Shiva is said to have two aspects - his Raudra or angry aspect, which he assumes when he's engaged in destruction, and his Saumya or serene aspect, which he assumes when he engages in Tapasya on Mount Kailash. So are sects of Shaivism classified according to what aspect of Shiva they worship? Or are there are other differences?

As I look the sects in each category, the obvious thing that stands out is that the sects in the first category are all names of ancient Shaiva Agamas, whereas the ones in the second category are sects that have substantial numbers of adherents in the present day. (Not as many as the Vaishnava sects, but still a sizable population.) So is the Raudra/Saumya distinction about the relative age of the sects? That would make sense, because Shiva's Raudra aspect is highlighted in the Vedas, whereas his Saumya is emphasized more in the Puranas.

Are there any Shaivites who can tell me the difference between the Raudra and Saumya sects of Shaivism?


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